Saturday, October 11, 2008

Overripe Bananas? Make Banana Bread!

I bought bananas last week and we seem to be out of the habit of eating them up very fast. For some reason in this dry climate, bananas ripen very quickly. By Friday, the smell of overripe bananas could not be ignored, so I knew there was just one thing to do: make banana bread! Since I've been on an economy kick lately, let me emphasize this: never throw out those overripe bananas, if they are anything short of spoiled. The riper they are, the more sugars have developed and they are perfect for banana bread!

This bread mixes up quickly and takes about one hour to bake and 1/2 hour to cool to where you can slice and enjoy it. Yummm, you will never be tempted to throw out those old bananas again!

Here is the recipe:

Lime Banana Bread

A wonderful banana bread recipe, adapted from one in the 1946 edition of Joy of Cooking. The lime juice and zest gives it a nice citrus zing! Please read the whole recipe and notes before starting.

2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1/4 c butter
3/4 c sugar (all white, all brown or half each)
1 egg

2/3 to 1 c mashed bananas
juice of 1 lime
finely grated zest of 1 lime

3 Tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Grease one 8x4 inch baking pan

Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together and set aside

Stir sugar into butter and mix until smooth
Break egg into butter and sugar mixture and stir until very smooth

Peel ripe to very ripe bananas, break into large chunks, and mash with a fork or potato masher. Mash them until there are only very small chunks left in the mash. Grate the outside of the lime with a fine grater before cutting it in half and juicing it. Add lime juice and zest and stir until well mixed.

Stir the banana and lime mixture into the butter, sugar and egg mixture and stir until well mixed.

Now add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, the flour in 3 parts and the milk in 2 parts in between adding the flour parts. Stir only enough to mix it in; a few dry flour spots is okay, just don't leave big flour chunks. Use a large wooden spoon and make sure to bring up the banana mixture from the bottom while mixing.

Now spoon the batter into the baking pan, place it on a cookie sheet in the pre-heated oven, and cook for about 1 hour. I usually set the timer for 50 minutes, and check it then -- better to take it out right when it's done. Check by inserting a small bamboo skewer or a knife blade into the center of the bread; if it comes out clean (it can have a crumb or two, just no wet dough) the bread is done. If it's not done at 50 minutes, give it another 10 minutes; after that, test every 5 minutes if you need to leave it in.

Remove from oven and leave it in the pan on a breadboard for about 10 minutes. Then remove it from the pan and let it cool on the board or on a wire rack until cool. Or you can start slicing when it's still a little warm. Serve with milk, tea, or coffee.


- The loaf pictured looks a little low because I put it in a larger loaf pan, not having the 8x4 loaf pan that is called for. I could have put the double recipe into this larger pan but wanted to save a loaf for later. So while the shape came out a little different, the taste was still wonderful!

- Butter should be room temperature, somewhat soft but not melted

- if using brown sugar, remember to lightly pack it in the measuring cup

- The lime juice adds flavor to the banana bread, and mixing it with the banana mash keeps it from oxidizing and turning brown.

- I usually decide how much banana bread I'm going to make depending on how much mashed banana I get from whatever overripe bananas are lying around and need to be used. This recipe has a lot of leeway: you can use from 2/3 to 1 cup of mashed banana. So if you don't quite have a cup, go ahead and make this recipe anyway. No need to adjust anything else. Or if you have 2 cups, like I did this time, just double the recipe and make 2 loaves.

- Remember, you can stir all you want before you add the flour, and the more you stir the more the sugar dissolves and the smoother the mixture gets, giving a finer texture to the finished product. In this recipe most of the heavy stirring should be done before the banana mixture is added.

- The biggest trick when baking is to know when to stop stirring once you start adding flour. Don't overdo it! Luckily, in the case of banana bread, there's plenty of leeway. If you're a beginner, relax: it may turn out to be not as tender as it could be, but this is a very forgiving recipe and it will still be great.

- Substitute lemon or orange for the lime, for a different citrus accent. If using oranges, you can also substitute orange juice for the milk to give a stronger orange flavor.


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